A gold ring 'from the hand of Peter'

November 28, 1994|By Frank P. L. Somerville | Frank P. L. Somerville,Sun Staff Correspondent

ROME -- Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore knelt before Pope John Paul II at the high altar of St. Peter's Basilica yesterday and received the gold ring symbolizing his fidelity to his "spouse," the Roman Catholic Church.

The Baltimore archbishop -- as cardinal he remains the archbishop -- was one of 29 newly elevated princes of the church who received their rings from the pope during a Mass attended by about 8,000 people.

Like Saturday's simpler ceremony raising the churchmen to their new rank, the Mass was marked by waves of applause and cheers in many languages, which echoed through the massive stone arches of the center of Catholicism.

Except during the solemn Eucharistic rite, national groups repeatedly and in some cases boisterously demonstrated their enthusiasm for their cardinals.

The ring that the pope placed on Cardinal Keeler's right hand bears a stylized engraving of the Crucifixion, with Mary and John beneath the cross. Inside the band is Pope John Paul's coat of arms. All the cardinals' rings are similar.

Cardinal Keeler, who attended a private lunch and a private dinner with priests from Harrisburg, Pa., and Baltimore yesterday, said after the Mass that the pope smiled at him during the presentation of the ring.

"It is wonderful to have the pope look at you like that," he said.

During the ring presentations by the pope, who is considered St. Peter's successor, words in Latin were quietly repeated. As translated, the words mean, "Receive this ring from the hand of Peter and know that the love of the Prince of the Apostles strengthens your love for the church."

The new Baltimore cardinal is the third in the 205-year history of the archdiocese. One of the 30 new cardinals was not present -- French theologian Yves Congar, 90, who is hospitalized in Paris.

Pope John Paul wore a gold and white miter and a dark purple cape over his white and purple robes as he entered the basilica for the Mass to tumultuous applause.

He also wore a white bandage on the little finger of his right hand, having just had the door of his car inadvertently slammed on it, the Vatican said.

When not on the high platform of the altar with the pope, Cardinal Keeler, along with the other new members of the College of Cardinals, sat in a wide semicircle in front of the pope's chair, under Michelangelo's lofty dome.

Because yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent, an observance commemorating the coming of Christ into the world, the cardinals also wore robes -- called chasubles -- of purple. Under their tall, white bishops' miters, which were removed at various points in the Mass, they wore their new skull caps of brilliant red.

In his homily, which was delivered in Italian, Pope John Paul said, "The creation of new cardinals this year takes on an Advent character."

Noting that the church "lives by the rhythm of the liturgical year" as it prepares for Christmas, he said, "The church draws life from Advent. . . . Both the first and the second coming [of Christ] are points of reference for the Jubilee Year 2000."

But he also recalled events of 1994, saying, "We cannot forget the important Cairo Conference, called by the United Nations organization."

Referring to the international debate over abortion policy before and during the conference, in which the Vatican held to its strong opposition to abortion and contraception, the pope said, "We cannot forget the dangers which the church and, in particular, the Apostolic See had to face in order to awaken consciences, in many cases effectively."

Many English-speaking members of the sea of humanity were packed into the nave and transepts, sitting in plastic chairs behind wooden barriers. Other members of the congregation stood throughout.

The church's strict adherence to custom was demonstrated by the way the pope presented the cardinal's ring to Jesuit theologian Alois Grillmeier, 84, who was confined to a wheelchair.

The chair, which was carried to the platform of the altar by aides, could not be placed close enough to the pope to enable him to place the ring on Cardinal Grillmeier's finger.

But as with the other cardinals, the pope remained seated. Finally, the wheelchair was moved to the side of the pope and the ring was presented.

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